The 2010’s have produced some of the most iconic Hip-Hop and R&B albums. From the intense and clever lyrics of Kanye West, Drake & Jay-Z to the soulful voices of Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Khalid, this has been a true decade of dominance. Of course like any good thing, hip-hop and R&B had some down years…almost like a musical recession. But led by some incredible voices, the game is stronger than before. As an avid fan of these genres, it’s only right that I hit you with a “Top Ten/Best Of” list as we close out the 2010’s.
Hip-Hop: RTJ2, Run The Jewels (2014)
An album that was hailed for its crafty lyricism from Killer Mike and EI-P, this was widely considered the best album 2014 and if you haven’t listened, you’re missing out. Plain and simple.
R&B: House of Balloons,The Weeknd (2011)
I know, I know…technically it was a mixtape but whatever. Abel Tesfaye came out the gate swinging with his debut project and has been consistent with hits since then. Considered to be one of the most influential releases in some years, The Weeknd made us all crave his unique sound and vibe immediately.
Hip-Hop: Man on the Moon II, Kid Cudi (2010)
Seen by some as a classic but known by all as a great album. An honest, slightly different and extremely creative project, this gave us an even deeper look into who Cudi was and still is. It allowed us to understand and relate to him because he tapped into a lot of what we deal with most.
R&B: Kaleidoscope Dream, Miguel (2012) Miguel scored BIG on his sophomore album. This album helped not only solidify him as a star but it also saw him put some of the class back in R&B that was missing. This project was Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing mixed with Miguel’s one of a kind creativity. And that made it impactful and an instant classic.
Hip-Hop: Because The Internet, Childish Gambino (2013)
Donald Glover: actor, rapper, comedian, producer and director. This album not only helped Gambino show off his versatility, it gave him the opportunity to appeal to every audience it reached. As creative as it was hard hitting, the lyrics and production made it a personal favorite that is in my rotation to this day.
R&B: Dirty Computer, Janelle Monae (2013)
For her critically acclaimed third studio album, Janelle not only garnered inspiration from Prince, she did reeled in Grammy nominations as well. This album took the foundation Monae laid on her first two albums and then brilliantly expanded on it.
Hip-Hop: Daytona, Pusha T (2018)
I’ve got one thing to say, “the only rapper sold more dope than me was Eazy-E.” Pusha’s 2018 release was one of five projects that Kanye produced from his time working in Wyoming and there was no disappointment when it came to content. After debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200, King Push also picked up an Album of the Year nomination from the Grammy’s. And if we’re being honest, this help bring good diss tracks back to the game.
R&B: Anti, Rihanna (2016)
Rhianna does it all…music, fashion, makeup and more. She also made a smash with this album. With several acclaimed singles, including the annoyingly catchy Work, it’s no mystery as to why Bad Gal Ri Ri went platinum in a week’s time.
Hip-Hop: Invasion Of Privacy, Cardi B (2018)
Let me start off by saying this: I am not a fan of Cardi B. Just not my cup of tea. However, I cannot deny the impact and raw authenticity she has on this album. You find Cardi going as hard as she possibly can because she knew she had something to prove. Winning a Grammy for best rap album (the first female rapper to do so), she has a rightful place in the rap game.
R&B: Trigga, Trey Songz (2014)
Was anybody else underwhelmed by Chapter V? Just me? Oh…okay. Well anyway, Trigga made up for what Chapter V missed. Songz put out the type of songs (pun intended) that made his 2009 effort, Ready one of the best albums many of us have heard in the last twenty years.
Hip-Hop: Watch The Throne, Jay-Z & Kanye West (2011)
When J. Cole said, “they act like two legends cannons coexist” part of me wants to believe he was referencing this album in addition to the relationship between him and Drake. At any rate, Watch The Throne was not only one of the best albums of the decade, it was also one of the most influential.
R&B: The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake (2013)
Releasing his third solo album after a near seven year hiatus, Timberlake was met with excitement as well as some resentment (JT, you still gotta fight me for that Super Bowl with Janet). However, this album was worth the wait.
Hip-Hop: Coloring Book, Chance The Rapper (2016)
Release a mixtape for free? Sure thing. Win best rap album at the Grammy’s all while becoming an international sensation? We can check that off too. Chance easily made 2016 his year by releasing an iconic album that spawned numerous hits.
R&B: Blonde, Frank Ocean (2016)
Frank, to be frank, gave us what we waited four long years for. Another great album. Something that we never knew we needed so bad. Just as clever and just as silky smooth as his first album. With several new tracks released, I’m hoping we won’t wait another several years for the next project.
Hip-Hop: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West (2010)
This album will always be great to me Kanye was still at the best we’ve seen him and he brought that hard hitting flow we heard on Graduation back on this project along with a star studded guest list.
R&B: Lemonade, Beyoncé (2016)
One of the most honest videos I saw in 2016 was King Keraun talking about guys don’t really mess with Beyoncé but he couldn’t help but dance to Formation when it came on. And you really can’t. The album was solid and 3X platinum. Showing all why Beyoncé is the Queen.
Hip-Hop: 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)
I’m not sure if people quite understand what this album did not only for J. Cole’s career but for the rap game as a whole. Cole’s first platinum album came on the strength of his own name and without a single feature. The first rapper to do so in almost two decades. After this release…things seemed more competitive once again in the game. And Cole? He’s still dropping classics.
R&B: X, Chris Brown (2014)
Chris Brown gave us not only a top R&B album of the decade, he also gave us his most raw, emotional and adult piece of work. A project that showed us a mature and personal side of him. Every song showed us his pain, his anguish and his hope.
Hip-Hop: Take Care, Drake (2011)
I’ll admit, I didn’t appreciate this album until I went through my first heartbreak. But since then, it has grown on me and made me appreciate the time and effort Drake put into this album. And this album, ladies and gentlemen, is without a doubt in my mind the album of the decade.
R&B: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean (2012)
Frank’s debut album gave us what we’d been waiting for from his mixtapes and single releases. An album that was as unique and as easygoing as he is. He’s just REALLY gotta be more consistent with the album releases.
Great article, AJ. Loved the countdown.